Dolmabahçe Palace, an architectural masterpiece and a symbol of opulence, stands proudly on the European shores of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey. Its history is intertwined with the changing fortunes of the Ottoman Empire and the transition to a modern Turkish Republic.
The construction of Dolmabahçe Palace began in 1843, during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid I. The palace was designed by the Armenian architects Garabet Balyan and his son Nigoğayos Balyan, who fused elements of Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical styles to create a structure that exudes grandeur. The palace was built to replace the older, more traditional Ottoman residences like Topkapi Palace.
Dolmabahçe Palace served as the main administrative center and royal residence of the Ottoman Empire until its demise in 1922. It witnessed significant events in Turkish history, including the signing of the Treaty of Hünkâr İskelesi in 1833, which marked the beginning of the Tanzimat reforms.
One of the most remarkable features of the palace is the Crystal Staircase, adorned with Baccarat crystal balusters, and the Crystal Chandelier, a gift from Queen Victoria, weighing 4.5 tons and featuring 750 lights.
The palace also bears witness to the final years of the Ottoman Empire. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, stayed at the palace during his visits to Istanbul. It was here that he spent his final days before passing away in 1938.
Today, Dolmabahçe Palace is a museum, allowing visitors to explore its lavish interiors, including the Ceremonial Hall, where the last Ottoman Sultans held court. It stands as a testament to the changing tides of history, reflecting both the grandeur of the Ottoman era and the emergence of modern Turkey.
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The Besiktas coast attracted much attention during the Ottoman rule in Dolmabache palace history. Pavilions, palace structures, and gardens were constructed here for the Sultans from the latter half of the fifteenth century to the early sixteenth century. The gardens inspired the name Dolmabahce, which means “filled-in garden”.
The Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, had constructed a summer palace on a hill behind the Besiktas royal gardens. After the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul, the shoreline became the anchorage and gathering point of the Ottoman navy fleet. Numerous wooden pavilions and small summer pavilions came up in the area in the 18th and 19th centuries, creating the Besiktas Waterfront Palace.
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The first Ottoman structure in Dolmabahce Palace history came up in the Bayezid II Period of the late fifteenth century. Royal interests in the area continued to increase and became evident by the seventeenth century. Several palace-related structures, royal gardens, and the Tiled Pavilion were constructed by the imperial masters of the region.
It was in the early years of the seventeenth century that Sultan Ahmed I filled the bay area up to the Levent Farm and constructed a royal garden. The land reclamation led to the region being referred to as “dolma-bahce”, or the “filled-up garden”. Numerous entertainment activities, like javelin throwing, and wedding ceremonies were held in the newly-created region.
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The Besiktas Coastal Palace was Istanbul’s second largest palace after Topkapi Palace but was unsuitable for long-term accommodations. It was demolished on Sultan Abdulmecid’s orders, who ordered the construction of Dolmabahce Palace in 1843. In 1856, the Sultan departed from Topkapi Palace and Dolmabahce Palace became the Ottomans’ official residence and administrative centre. The Dolmabahce Palace history witnessed Ottoman westernisation efforts from 1856 to the 1923 declaration of the Republic.
The last six Ottoman Sultans, the last Caliph, and the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, lived in the Palace. Dolmabahce Palace history has seen revolutionary political developments like the Alphabet Revolution, Language Revolution, Parliament opening, and Congresses of History and Language. The Palace was conferred a museum-palace status and opened to tourists in 1984.
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Checkout this informative video, which unveils the stories of Ottoman opulence and transformation. Commissioned by Sultan Abdulmecid I, the palace replaced the traditional Topkapi Palace as the imperial residence. Its construction amalgamated Ottoman and European architectural styles, reflecting the empire's desire for modernization. Notably, it hosted Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, during the nation's transition to a republic. Today, Dolmabahçe's history-rich halls and elegant design stand as a remarkable testament to Turkey's cultural and political evolution.
The Dolmabahce Palace, renowned for its neoclassical beauty and impressive scale, attracts tourists as a museum, providing insights into the opulent lives of Ottoman sultans. The Palace boasts stunning features such as a magnificent crystal chandelier and a graceful staircase that are sure to captivate visitors with their luxuriousness and splendor. Within its walls, a collection of ancient artifacts dating back to the days of the Ottoman Empire can be found. Through diligent restoration efforts carried out over time, the Dolmabahce Palace's magnificence and charm have been carefully maintained, allowing it to welcome the public for guided tours and exploration.
The history of Dolmabahce Palace witnessed the last six Ottoman Sultans and the last Caliph living here. The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, also lived here.
The 168-year-old Dolmabahce Palace reflects Ottoman rule in Turkey, a majestic symbol of cultural heritage.
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Who built Dolmabahce Palace?
Dolmabahce Palace history notes the Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid as the ruler who ordered the construction of the new palace after the demolition of the Besiktas Coastal Palace.
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The history of Dolmabahce Palace began in 1843 when the construction of the new imperial palace was begun. It was completed by 1856 when the Ottoman Sultan moved out from the Topkapi Palace and permanently shifted the residential and administrative base of the empire to Dolmabahce Palace.
Why was Dolmabahce Palace built?
The history of Dolmabahce Palace began in 1843 when its construction began after the demolition of the Besiktas Coastal Palace. The Topkapi Palace, which had been the official residence and administrative centre of the Ottoman empire, lacked modern styles and luxuries, which prompted the Ottoman Sultan to order the construction of a new European-inspired palace.
Can you go inside Dolmabahce Palace?
The Dolmabahce Palace is open to visitors from 9 AM to 6 PM on all days except Mondays.
How much time do you need in Dolmabahce Palace?
Visitors need approximately two to three hours to explore all spaces in the Dolmabahce Palace.
The Dolmabahce Palace is known for being the symbol of Turkey’s march to westernisation under the last Ottoman Sultans and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The final residence of the Ottomans, the Palace took inspiration from European palaces and is Turkey’s largest mono-block palace and Istanbul’s first European-style palace.
The 19th-century Palace combines Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical styles with classic Ottoman elements. The two-wing arrangement is adorned extensively with gold and crystal and houses the world’s largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers.